February 19, 2014
By Joanne Kilgour, Director of the Sierra Club PA Chapter,
Over the past several years, the landscape of Pennsylvania has been permanently altered by natural gas development. Now, Governor Corbett plans to open up state forest and parklands to additional gas leases, even before the release of DCNR’s overdue report on the impacts of past drilling in state forests. By including state parks, Corbett will be breaking what has been a permanent policy against leasing ANY state park lands for gas. This is a bad precedent for state parks that, up until now, were considered sacred.
Both Governor Corbett and DCNR Secretary Ferretti contend that no surface activity or surface impacts will result from this proposed new leasing. These statements may sound comforting, but we cannot rest easy. In fact, Secretary Ferretti in her own testimony earlier this morning admitted that additional wells may be constructed on well pads within the boundaries of state forests. Not only will this kind of direct, incremental surface activity occur, but the very idea that there can be non-surface impact leasing is misleading.
Surface impacts are not limited to new wells, well pads, pipelines, compressor stations, access roads, or open pits, but rather they include loss of critical habitat, changes to the local hydrology and geology, loss of valuable ecosystem services such as flood control, noise and light disturbances, and increased air pollution.
Further, there will be impacts to recreation and the economic benefit to the state from tourism driven by the natural beauty of the state forest and park system. Increased light and noise disturbances paired with forest fragmentation and habitat loss are also likely to result in fewer game animals and a reduction in hunting.
And these are only the certain impacts – in addition, as we have seen recently with the tragic fire at the gas wells in Greene County, there will be risks of leaks, spills, blowouts, and fires – none of which respect the artificial boundary between private land and the lands held in trust by the Commonwealth.
The thousands of Pennsylvanians who have been struggling with the on-the-ground realities of natural gas development can attest to the fact that there is no such as thing as non-surface impact drilling. To suggest otherwise is a misrepresentation of reality, and an insult to those who have lived with wells on or near their property
Sierra Club PA Chapter